4 Ways to Honor Black History Month With Books by Black Authors
We’re celebrating the astounding contributions, culture, and heritage of people of African descent in America. So how can we honor the civil rights heroes who fought injustice and those who are still fighting? How can we recognize our individual privileges and do the work to understand and end systemic oppression?
We believe in the power of audiobooks to educate, inspire, and spark positive action, so we’ve put together a list of four ways to honor Black History Month, with corresponding books by black authors to illuminate your path.
1. First, Learn the History
From the slave trade to segregation, the origins of racism run deep. Today’s socio-economic disparities, daily prejudices, and violence – along with the subsequent need for today’s Black Lives Matter movement – are the result of a history of maltreatment. Alongside this history, though, there exists a simultaneous tale of triumph, achievement, and courage from civil rights leaders, fighters, and people who dared to take a stand.
The Everything Martin Luther King Jr. Book, Jessica McElrath
From his march on Washington to his time in a Birmingham prison, King’s work profoundly affects American civil rights to this day. This informative biography includes details about King’s upbringing, education, nonviolent-resistance influences, and so much more.
Stamped from the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi
This National Book Award winner from historian Ibram X. Kendi examines the origins of racist ideas in America, and how these ideas put down roots and grew like weeds. Deeply researched and brilliantly illuminating, Stamped from the Beginning spells out precisely how we came to be this way.
Max Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Adria Worsham
This kid’s picture book serves as a primer for how to celebrate history’s most prominent civil rights figure.
Zora Hurston and the Strange Case of Ruby McCollum, Arthur Ellis
This is the true story of Ruby McCollum, an African American woman who murdered her white lover after he forced her to bear his children. The first woman of color allowed to take the stand and witness against a white man (in the 1952 Segregationist South, no less), Ruby’s tale is a revelatory account of crime and prejudice.
The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
Du Bois’s seminal sociological work examines early 20th century race in America through a series of essays. In them, he calls for the need to establish a right to vote, a right to equality, and a right to spiritual strivings autonomous from any master.
2. Know That Representation Matters
For too long, people of color have been silenced. Still today, less than 15% of films feature leads of color. It’s important for kids to see a reflection of themselves in book and movie characters, as superheroes and doctors and princesses. Representation, or lack thereof, affects self-esteem well into adulthood, so listening to stories about marginalized people who pushed themselves onto the main page… that means something.
Well-Read Black Girl, Glory Edim
A collection of essays by celebrated black female writers from Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing), to Gabourey Sidibe (This Is Just My Face), Well-Read Black Girl explores the importance of seeing yourself in the characters you read about.
Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop, Charles Shaar Murray
Jimi Hendrix blurred many boundaries: among them, jazz and rock, and black and white. This complete study of his life illuminates readers on rock ‘n’ roll and race, alike.
3. Check Your Privilege
Understanding the effects of systemic racism is no small feat. We’ve gathered together a few audiobooks to help shift your perspective and provide insight into what it can be like to feel like you don’t belong.
A Modern Day Black Woman’s Poetry: Volume 1: Two Decades of Growth and Change, Shamar Starks-Ward
Shamar Starks-Ward’s poetry follows her from the perspective of an eighteen-year old all the way to a forty two year old who has endured the joy, pain, love, loss, and wisdom of a life lived.
Swing Time, Zadie Smith
This multilayered novel by the celebrated black female writer of White Teeth and On Beauty explores a diverging childhood friendship between two young dancers in a low income area of North London. As the girls mature, one continues to pursue dance and the other goes on to assist a popstar. From London to West Africa and back again, this rich story is as intimate as it is global, and handles issues of race and class with rhythm and grace.
Quicksand, Nella Larsen
This novel portrays the fraught life of Helga Crane, born to a white mother and an absent black father. This is a story about finding your place, and how systems of oppression in the 1920s made this next to impossible.
4. Finally, Learn to Laugh
Humor unites us, and laughter strengthens us. While reverence is priority this Black History Month, we hope you’ll take a moment to laugh with these hilariously talented black comedians.
The Last Black Unicorn, Tiffany Haddish
Growing up as a foster kid in one of the poorest neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, Tiffany endured by making people laugh. In The Last Black Unicorn, the actress, stand-up comedian, and star of Girls Trip continues to work her magic with this collection of side-splitting personal essays.
Away Game, Nore Davis
In his sophomore comedy album (the first was Home Game), Nore Davis and his infectious wit delight with instant classics like ‘The Hood’ and ‘Gay is the New Black’. If the track titles didn’t clue you in, however, this explicit audiobook is not for little ears.
You Can’t Touch My Hair, Phoebe Robinson
A compilation of uproariously funny essays by Stand-Up Comedy Queen and 2 Dope Queens podcaster Phoebe Robinson about the daily insanity of existing as a woman of color in America.